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Marlon Brando’s Easy Business Lesson

Even though Marlon Brando was at his peak way before my time, I’ve always been a fan. There was always something very direct and honest in his acting that appealed to me. A few years ago, I read Marlon Brando’s autobiography. It’s called “Brando : Songs My Mother Taught Me.” It’s a fascinating look at his life. But it also had an unexpected benefit for me: it taught me a very interesting business lesson.

Brando was often criticized for not taking this craft seriously. Truthfully, there’s a lot in his autobiography that suggests he had an interesting take on his profession. But the one thing that had the greatest impression on me was this: he said he liked acting because it was the easiest way to make money. Specifically, it was the best way to make a lot of money with minimal time investment. *

At first, that assertion sounds a bit disappointing. We don’t like it when people say they want to accomplish something the easy way. We like it when people work hard and sweat. We admire those who take the path of most resistance, not the least. But that Brando assertion got me thinking. The guy is one of the greatest actors of all time. That means—by definition—that his body of work is worthy. So even if he went about it trying to make things as easy on himself as possible… the end result was noteworthy. If that’s the case, he must have been on to something.

But here’s the thing: Brando did work hard. He did a lot of movies and a lot of theatre. Perhaps when he says “easiest way to make money”, it’s easiest, but still hard. It’s just not as hard as other ways of making money.

I think that’s a smart take on business. No matter what you do in business, it’s going to be hard. Launching a product is hard. Building a brand is hard. Satisfying customers is hard. So if it’s all difficult and challenging, why not try to take the easiest path possible?

When launching a business, keep the business model simple, because even a simple business is hard. When developing a product, keep the process as easy as possible, because creating even the simplest product is a major endeavor. When creating a website, keep the navigation simple, because even a simple website is hard to build.

The truth is, doing anything worth doing is challenging. The unpredictable happens. Things that were supposed to go one way go another. And even when things go the way they’re supposed to, it still takes a lot of effort.

My take on Brando? When doing anything in business, strive for easy, simple, fast. Because it always ends up being hard, complicated and long. And better hard, complicated and long, than hardest, most complicated and longest.

* Note, this is my interpretation of his personal philosophy, and does not in any way reflect what Mr. Brando felt.

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